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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas
Bart van Oort (CDs 1-2); Ursula Dütschler (CDs 3-4); Stanley Hoogland (CDs 5-6); Yoshiko Kojima (CDs 7-8); Riko Fukuda (CDs 9-10)
rec. various locations, September-October 2000. DDD
Full tracklist at end of review
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94090 [10 CDs: approx. 10.41:00]

Experience Classicsonline


Such is Brilliant Classics' marketing that they sometimes release the same discs or sets in multiple versions. This set of Hadyn's piano sonatas has seen at least four releases: a first box set in 2001; then later, as part of a 40-disc "Masterworks" set; then another, larger box set of 150 discs of Haydn; and finally this new 10-disc set, identical to the first. Such is the confusion of seeing different sets with different covers that I hadn't realized that I had already reviewed this set back in 2001 - probably among my earliest reviews for MusicWeb International. Add to all that the fact that I cannot find the original set. I may have given it away, or it may be stashed in one of the many CD boxes in my basement. So when I saw the set on the list of discs for review, I requested it, being a fan of Haydn's keyboard music - as well as much of his other music.

Time is a great healer, they say, and listening to this music ten years later offers insights that I didn't have at the time. In addition, since the first review, a number of other sets of Haydn's keyboard works have been released: I reviewed Ronald Brautigam's 15-disc set of all of Haydn's keyboard music (not just the sonatas) in 2008 and I own another set of the sonatas by Christine Schornsheim on Capriccio C49404. So I will take this opportunity to discuss this set in the light of the two other sets, and will reprise some of my comments from the original review.

Franz Joseph Haydn wrote some 51 sonatas for piano and several other short piano pieces. Most of these were written in his early years. He was not a pianist, and, as his career developed, he lost interest in the genre. Only three of his piano sonatas were written in the last twenty years of his life.

Haydn is best known for his string quartets and symphonies, but his piano sonatas, despite many of them following a rigid three-movement structure, show a great deal of experimentation. He also wrote nine sonatas with just two movements, and two sonatas with four movements. The vast majority of them were written in major keys - only seven are in the minor - and their melodic development is magnificent. Nevertheless, not many of them contain virtuoso passages, and some of them sound relatively simple. This does not detract from their musicality, but it may explain why they are not performed very often. Haydn had a way with music and crafted some of the most enjoyable tunes in the repertoire. This is readily apparent in his symphonies and string quartets, but the more limited keyboard works show the same types of hugely enjoyable creativity. Feeling down? Put on a CD of Haydn to lift your spirits.

Recent years have seen an upsurge of performances on fortepiano, whether they be of works by Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, or even Schubert. This is logical, because, as period practice becomes more common, both musicians and listeners are seeking to hear the music in a form much closer to the original. Yet were these works composed for the fortepiano, or, as Bart van Oort suggests, even for the clavichord or the harpsichord? He points out that the clavichord was the instrument of choice for amateur musicians in their homes, and that the Esterhazy sonatas were published in 1781 “for fortepiano or harpsichord”. When they were published in 1783, by another publisher, the score said “for harpsichord”. Robert Hill has recorded some of Haydn’s early sonatas on the harpsichord, and Christine Schornsheim, in her 13-disc of Haydn’s keyboard works, includes four discs of harpsichord recordings, along with one on the clavichord. Even Beethoven’s Op. 2 sonatas were published with the indication “pour le Clavecin ou Piano-Forte” (for harpsichord or fortepiano). According to van Oort’s notes in the 2000 release, only the last four sonatas were unequivocally written for the fortepiano.

In any case, the ten CDs in this set features a number of different fortepianos, and the listener can discover the wide range of instruments of this type that were played at the time when these works were first performed. For many, this may be an eye-opening experience - the music is different, new, fresh and lively. The instrument does not have the staid resonance of concert pianos; it sounds more homey, more intimate.

The performances on this set are generally very good, and the sound is quite flattering. With five different performers, the listener is treated to five slightly different approaches. Each disc contains from four to six sonatas from different periods, which offers a recital-like flavour.

In comparison to the two other boxes I have mentioned, it’s fair to say that Ronald Brautigam’s 15-CD set offers both more unity and a wider range of works. Not only does it contain the sonatas, in order, but also three discs of miscellaneous keyboard pieces, and a wonderful keyboard recording of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. Brautigam has recorded the great 19th century composers on the fortepiano - Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn - and is one of today’s finest performers on that instrument.

In a different register, Christine Schornsheim’s set on Capriccio, offers a wider range of instruments, containing not only fortepiano but also harpsichord and clavichord recordings on her 13-CD set. There is also a 14th disc containing interviews, in German, with Schornsheim, discussing the music and the instruments. For that reason alone - as well as for her excellent musicianship - Schornsheim’s recordings are worth examining as well.

To be fair, while the performances on the Brilliant Classics set are very good, it would be my third choice among the sets I’ve mentioned. Brautigam’s unity, and his mastery of the instrument, are far above the five performers in the Brilliant Classics box. I do find, however, that the sound of the Brautigam set - and of his other recordings for solo fortepiano on Bis – is a bit annoying. There is a strong reverb, which makes the instrument sound a bit harsh. My second choice would be Schornsheim, who, while less flamboyant, draws a shade more intimacy from these scores. The closer sound, with less reverb, adds to this. In addition, hearing four discs of the earlier works on harpsichord is quite a treat, as well as the disc of clavichord - I have a weakness for this instrument - recordings. But this doesn’t mean that one should write off this Brilliant Classics set. Fine performances, very good recordings, and a variety of instruments make it a wonderful choice for anyone unfamiliar with these works. For anyone who is a serious fan of Haydn’s keyboard works, this set will be a welcome addition to their collection; it doesn’t disappoint.

If you really like Haydn’s keyboard works, I would say that, for period performances, all three of the sets I mention have pros and cons. At the time of writing, the Brilliant Classics set is a tad cheaper than the others, with the Schornsheim being the most expensive, at least on Amazon UK, but all three sets are within a few pounds of each other.

Kirk McElhearn


Full tracklist

HAYDN Complete Keyboard Sonatas [approx. 10:41:00]

CD1 Piano Sonatas 41, 16, 2, 32, 46
Sonata in B flat major, Hob XVI/41 (ca 1782/84)
1. Allegro 5.65
2. Allegro di molto 2.48
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/16 (before 1766)
3. Andante-presto 2.29
4. Menuet-trio 2.57
5. Presto 1.46
Sonata in B flat major, Hob XVI/2 (before 1766)
6. Moderato 7.05
7. Largo 5.08
8. Menuet 3.53
Sonata in b minor, Hob XVI/32 (1776)
9. Allegro moderato 5.46
10. Menuet-Trio 3.22
11. Finale: presto 3.06
Sonata in A flat major, Hob XVI/46 (ca 1768)
12. Allegro moderato 7.12
13. Adagio 9.23
14. Finale: presto 2.27
Total time: 63.20
Bart van Oort (fortepiano)

CD2 Piano Sonatas 33, 1, 12, 42, 50
Sonata in D major, Hob XVI/33 (1771/73?)
1. Allegro 5.57
2. Adagio 5.59
3. Tempo di Menuet 3.57
Sonata in C major, Hob XVI/1 (before 1776)
4. Allegro 2.55
5. Adagio 3.35
6. Menuet-Trio 2.44
Sonata in A major, Hob XVI/12 (before 1776)
7. Andante 3.44
8. Menuet-Trio 3.35
9. Presto 1.47
Sonata in D major, Hob XVI/42 (ca 1782/84)
10. Andante con espressione 9.20
11. Vivace assai 3.05
Sonata in C major, Hob XVI/50 (1794/95)
12. Allegro 7.27
13. Adagio 5.24
14. Allegro molto 2.50
Total time: 62.21
Bart van Oort (fortepiano)

CD3 Piano Sonatas G1, 3, 13, 30, 44, 43
Sonata in G major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/G1 (before 1766)
1. Allegro 2.43
2. Menuetto 2.41
3. Finale: Presto 1.54
Sonata in C major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/3 (before 1766)
4. Allegretto 2.54
5. Andante 3.18
6. Menuet 3.06
Sonata in E major ('Parthia', 'Divertimento'), Hob XVI/13 (before 1766)
7. Moderato 3.18
8. Menuetto 2.51
9. Finale: Presto 2.21
Sonata in A major ('Divertimento'),Hob XVI/30 (1776)
10. Allegro - Adagio 7.51
11. Tempo di Menuet 6.55
Sonata in g minor, Hob XVI/44 (1768/70?)
12. Moderato 6.50
13. Allegretto 4.09
Sonata in A flat major, Hob XVI/43 (1771/73?)
14. Moderato 7.01
15. Menuetto 2.32
16. Rondo: Presto 5.51
Total time: 66.16
Ursula Dütschler (fortepiano)

CD4 Piano Sonatas 10, 5, 22, 37, 49
Sonata in C major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/10 (before 1766)
1. Moderato 2.30
2. Menuet 2.41
3. Finale: Presto 2.12
Sonata in A major ('Divertimento'),Hob XVI/5 (before 1763)
4. Allegro 5.22
5. Menuet 2.13
6. Presto 2.55
Sonata in E major, Hob XVI/22 (1773)
7. Allegro moderato 6.00
8. Andante 3.39
9. Finale: Menuetto 4.11
Sonata in D major, Hob XVI/37 (1777/79)
10. Allegro con brio 4.33
11. Largo e sostenuto 2.25
12. Finale: Presto ma non troppo 3.50
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/49 (1789/90)
13. Allegro 8.00
14. Adagio e cantabile 8.05
15. Finale: Tempo di minuet 4.13
Total time: 62.51
Ursula Dütschler (fortepiano)

CD5 Piano Sonatas 7, 47, 23, 27, 52
Sonata in C major, Hob XVI/7 (before 1766)
1. Allegro moderato 1.16
2. Menuet 2.44
3. Finale: allegro 1.31
Sonata in e minor, Hob XVI/47 (before 1766)
4. Adagio 4.40
5. Allegro 5.24
6. Finale: tempo di menuet 3.45
Sonata in F major, Hob XVI/23 (1773)
7. Allegro 7.25
8. Adagio 6.59
9. Finale: presto 4.28
Sonata in G major, Hob XVI/27 (1776)
10. Allegro con brio 5.42
11. Menuet 4.51
12. Finale: presto 3.35
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/52 (1794)
13. Allegro 9.32
14. Adagio 5.53
15. Finale: presto 6.17
Total time: 74.13
Stanley Hoogland (fortepiano)

CD6 Piano Sonatas 11, 19, 35, 34, 51
Sonata in G major, Hob. XVI/11 (before 1766)
1. Presto 2.14
2. Andante 5.46
3. Menuetto 3.04
Sonata in D major, Hob. XVI/19 (1767)
4. Moderato 8.28
5. Andante 9.12
6. Finale: allegro assai 3.30
Sonata in C major, Hob. XVI/35 (1777/79)
7. Allegro 6.09
8. Adagio 5.46
9. Finale: allegro 3.04
Sonata in e minor, Hob. XVI/34 (1781)
10. Presto 4.32
11. Adagio 4.43
12. Vivace molto 3.37
Sonata in D major, Hob. XVI/51 (1794)
13. Andante 3.59
14. Finale: presto 2.30
Total time: 66.39
Stanley Hoogland (fortepiano)

CD7 Piano Sonatas D1, 24, 25, 29, 39
Sonata in D major ('Variazione'), Hob XVII/D1 (before 1766)
1. Thema con variationi 3.26
2. Menuet 0.55
3. Finale 1.53
Sonata in D major, Hob XVI/24 (1773)
4. Allegro 5.18
5. Adagio 3.32
6. Finale: Presto 2.31
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/25 (1773)
7. Moderato 6.24
8. Tempo di menuet 2.16
Sonata in F major ('Divertimento'),Hob XVI/29 (1774)
9. Moderato 6.07
10. Adagio 5.18
11. Tempo di menuet 4.30
Sonata in G major, Hob XVI/39 (1780)
12. Allegro con brio 4.45
13. Adagio 7.16
14. Prestissimo 5.12
Total time: 59.25
Yoshiko Kojima (fortepiano)

CD8 Piano Sonatas 45, 18, 38, 40, 48
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/45 (1766)
1. Moderato 7.10
2. Andante 5.50
3. Finale: allegro di molto 6.02
Sonata in B flat major, Hob XVI/18 (ca 1766/67)
4. Allegro moderato 5.00
5. Moderato 5.11
Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI/38 (1777/79?)
6. Allegro moderato 6.21
7. Adagio 4.01
8. Finale: allegro 2.47
Sonata in G major, Hob XVI/40 (ca 1782/84)
9. Allegretto e innocente 8.37
10. Presto 3.15
Sonata in C major, Hob XVI/48 (1789)
11. Andante con espressione 7.54
12. Rondo: presto 4.28
Total time: 66.38
Yoshiko Kojima (fortepiano)

CD9 Piano Sonatas 21, 20, 26, 4, 31
Sonata in C major, Hob XVI/21 (1773)
1. Allegro 5.56
2. Adagio 6.01
3. Finale: presto 2.19
Sonata in c minor, Hob XVI/20 (1771)
4. Moderato 8.44
5. Andante con moto 6.02
6. Finale: allegro 4.34
Sonata in A major, Hob XVI/26 (1773)
7. Allegro moderato 6.47
8. Menuet al Rovescio 2.33
9. Finale: presto 0.47
Sonata in D major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/4 (before 1776)
10. (-) 4.24
11. Menuetto 2.32
Sonata in E major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/31 (1776)
12. Moderato 5.32
13. Allegretto 1.50
14. Finale: presto 2.40
Total time: 60.46
Riko Fukuda (fortepiano)

CD10 Piano Sonatas 28, 36, 14, 6, 9, 8
Sonata in E flat major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/28 (1776)
1. Allegro moderato 6.37
2. Menuet 3.34
3. Finale: Presto 3.53
Sonata in c sharp minor, Hob XVI/36 (1777/79?)
4. Moderato 6.25
5. Scherzando: Allegro con brio 3.07
6. Menuet: Moderato 3.38
Sonata in D major ('Partita', 'Divertimento'), Hob XVI/14 (before 1766)
7. Allegro moderato 6.06
8. Menuet 3.41
9. Presto 2.28
Sonata in G major ('Partita', 'Divertimento'), Hob XVI/6 (before 1766)
10. Allegro 4.14
11. Minuet 4.14
12. Adagio 3.07
13. Finale: Allegro molto 1.51
Sonata in F major ('Divertimento'), Hob XVI/9 (before 1766)
14. Allegro 1.52
15. Menuet 3.06
16. Scherzo 0.46
Sonata in G major ('Partita', 'Divertimento'), Hob XVI/8 (before 1766)
17. Allegro 2.51
18. Menuet 0.53
19. Andante 1.25
20. Allegro 0.43
Total time: 64.44
Riko Fukuda (fortepiano)

 


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